It’s been awhile my friends. I’m sure you are just dying to know how my abs are, right? HA, ok no. But if you’ve been dealing with diastasis recti from pregnancy maybe you’re curious how my progression has been, and itching for some more advanced core workouts since my last post. Well you’re in luck because today is all about healing diastasis recti: part 2.
Grab a seat and let’s chat. Are you hoping for a miracle 3-month story on how to get your post-mommy tummy back to it’s original peak form? This isn’t going to be the tale you are looking for. As they always say, it’s a marathon, not a sprint. I have made some progression since my last post and the birth of my second baby (now 4 months old). But progression isn’t perfection, and if body perfection is what you are looking after pregnancy, it’s a lofty (and usually unattainable) goal. So let’s focus on progression mommas – progression is the name of the game here!
The physical journey after having a baby has been easy for me, the mental part has not been. After having children, my abs went from my favorite part of my body, to my least favorite. And as silly as that is, it can be a tough pill to swallow. So instead of dwelling about what I had and how I can get that back, I’m focusing on loving my new body, my new stomach, my trophy for having babies – yes, the babies themselves but I’m really talking about umbilical hernias – YAY for hernias! (sarcasm)
Umbilical hernias happen when your abs have separated (in my case, due to pregnancy), causing an opening for your body’s intestines to push through that open gape. You can detect an umbilical hernias if you have a slight bulge above a newly formed ‘outie’ belly button. These type of hernias do not go away and tend to get bigger over time. The only treatment is surgery. BOO. Do I have much advice on umbilical hernias? No. All I can say is that if you have one, it’s fairly normal. Avoid any strenuous exercises that cause you to bear down into your core, which can make the hernia worst. This also applies when you go #2 (you get the picture). If the hernia causes pain, it may be time to see a doctor and consider surgery.
I’ve been working on taking it easy with ab work and doing these exercises that are DR-friendly, but to be honest, it’s been a challenge finding the time to lay on the floor and practice ab recovery work. It’s been challenging finding any time at all for myself! So I do what I can, and I make sure to avoid ANY AND ALL crunches. Now that I feel like I’ve mastered the initial core work required to help rebuild my broken core, I have moved on to more advanced DR-friendly core exercises below.
Is my stomach drastically different than it was 2 months ago? No. However, I absolutely feel stronger in my mid-section with the help of the rehabilitation exercises and the use of my Belly Bandit directly after the birth of my baby. And when I need little help getting that flat tummy look during special events like date night (you know, like twice a year) I grab my Belly Bandit Mother Tucker Corset. Because there’s no shame in my game. When I want to dust off that little black dress, the last thing I want to worry about is feeling self-concious about post-baby belly. The Mother Tucker Corset is also an easy transition from the Belly Bandit when you want to continue to wrap but the Bandit is no longer tight enough to feel secure.
Here is a photo of this corset’s work in action. Now, let me be clear – do I advocate changing your body, or altering the build you were born with? NO. But do I believe in doing things or using products that make us feel a little better about ourselves? SURE! I wear fake eyelashes from time to time, and if I want to strut around a party and not worry about my DR issue, why not slip on some shapewear? As you can see, it makes a difference when my stomach is completely relaxed, and then when I have this compression piece on. I feel confident, and more importantly, it even reminds me to engaged my transverse abdominals.
If wearing a corset is something you want to consider, it’s easy to wrap it around your body, cinch it to your desired tightness, and go! The folks at Belly Bandit suggest you hook the corset before your wear it, then simply walk into the wrap and lift from your knees all the way up to your stomach. I found it easier to find the third hook to start, then the other top two, and continue hooking all the way down.
The corset can be worn hooked in the same vertical line (there are 6 different sized options/hook holders). But if you’re curvier, or if your DR condition is in a very specific portion of your core, you can adjust the settings to fit tighter or looser, giving you the freedom to customize the corset to fit YOUR body.
Although the Belly Bandit Mother Tucker corset is a great way to help you feel better in your clothing and can serve as a reminder to engage your abs by pulling your belly button in towards your spine, the single best thing you can do to heal diastasis recti is learning the correct way to execute ab exercises. Here are more advanced versions of DR ab work, a follow-up from my initial post on healing diastasis recti.
Healing Diastasis Recti: Part 2
Straight Leg Heel Lifts
Lie flat on your back, hands down at your sides, and feet planted on the floor. Inhale then exhale sharply and tilt your hips up towards your ribcage, keeping your lower back on the floor and cinching your belly button in towards your spine. Hold that position as you extend and lift one leg slightly off the ground. Next, lift your heel up towards the ceiling, keeping your foot and hip in one straight, vertical line. Next, gently lower the heel back to that original position (hovering off the ground). Do these motional all while holding your traverse abdominals in (belly button towards your spine, back flat on the floor). Execute 12 repetitions with one leg, then 12 with the other.
Lie flat on your back, hands down at your sides, and feet planted on the floor. Inhale then exhale sharply and tilt your hips up towards your ribcage, keeping your lower back on the floor and cinching your belly button in towards your spine. Lift one leg (foot pointed) and extend to a 45 degree angle from the ground. Start to make a small circle outwards with you toe, imagining you have a pencil between your toe and you are trying to draw a circle in the air. Do 12 circles in an outward motion, then another 12 circling inward (towards your other leg). Repeat the same sequence with your other leg.
Sitting Heel Sliders
*Note – you may need to wear socks to execute this exercise. Sit against a wall with your lower back glued to the wall, shoulders relaxed, hands and feet planted on the ground. Flex your feet, then gently slide your feet out until your legs are fully extended. Focus on keeping your core tight and belly button pushed in towards the wall. Slide your heels back in to the original position (slight bend in your knees) and do 24 repetitions.
Horizontal Heel Sliders
Stay in the same body position as you were for the exercise above, feet flat on the floor. Next, push both feet out to the side, then slide back in to the original position. Do 24 repetitions.
Turned out leg lifts
Start with your forearms flat on the ground, body facing the ceiling, and feet planted on the floor. Make sure your elbows are directly under your shoulders, your hips are tilted towards your ribcage, lower back glued to the ground, and knees bent. Lift one leg off the ground and your foot out (the arch of your foot should be facing the ceiling, kneecap facing the side). Keep the bend in your knee as you gently lift your leg to your highest point without losing the tilt in your hips, then back down – hovering slightly off the ground. Keep your belly button cinched to your spine and complete 12 lifts with one leg, then switch legs to complete 12 on the other.
*Note: Only attempt this modified plank if you have been working with the previous exercises to build your core strength. Do not attempt to do a plank if you feel your core is still weak, or if you do not yet know how to target your transverse abdominal muscles.
Start in a forearm plank position, knees on the ground, feet in towards your seat. During the time you are holding this plank, focus on bringing your belly button in towards your spine and holding it there, all while breathing deeply and engaging your inner transverse abdominal muscles.
Do these exercises as often as you can throughout the day, continuing to build strength in your core without traditional crunches, which often times make DR worse. While doing normal daily activities, focus on your breath – every time you exhale try getting your belly button closer to your spine – and hold it there. Doing this throughout the day is a constant core workout!
Diastasis recti may NEVER completely heal. It’s the cold hard truth. But empowering yourself with knowledge about what NOT to do when resuming your exercise routine will help your efforts to close the gap (even just a little), and avoid making the condition worse.
Talk to me! Have you had much luck healing your diastasis recti? What are other things moms can do (or avoid) to make the condition work? Did you develop an umbilical hernia after having children? The more we can talk around this issue, the more we can learn from each other!
This post is sponsored by the awesome people at Belly Bandit. As always, all opinions are 100% my own. Thanks for supporting Physical Kitchness! Disclaimer: Please note that there are affiliate links on this page and I will earn a small commission if you purchase through those links as a Belly Bandit Ambassador. However, all opinions are my own. Thank you for your support.